You have the right to assume whichever name you wish at any point. However, from a legal perspective, when applying for formal documents such as a passport or driving licence, or when opening a new bank account, then simply choosing to be known by a different name will not prove sufficient. A formal change of name application must be submitted to The Royal Courts of Justice. This may sound like an overwhelming proposition, but in truth the process is very straightforward and inexpensive.
But that is not intended to make the process seem any less important. The fact is that it is essential to inform companies and authorities of your new status – it’s one of the many ways in which you might have an extra layer to protect your credit rating.
Naturally, not all people wanting to change their surname back to their maiden name are doing so through fear- many divorces are more than amicable, but when the relationship comes to an end, the sharing of an ex husband’s surname may simply not be desirable. His or her credit rating could impact on yours particularly if you remain at the same address where you lived as a married couple.
What you are officially applying for is referred to as a Deed Change of Name – a term that you may well be familiar with as a Deed Poll. A Deed Poll is a legal document that proves a change of name. Many people use them to make small changes such as the removal of a hyphen or a subtle change of spelling. In other instances, they can be used for the applicant to remove one or more middle names and, of course, for them to return to either their maiden name or an entirely personal choice of new name after a divorce.
Later in this article, you’ll see that it’s not entirely necessary to apply for a Deed Change of Name when reverting to a maiden name after a divorce, and we’d like to think that we offer a balanced view of the pros and cons of either means of changing a surname back.
There are two ways in which you can apply for a deed poll, and these are to apply for either an enrolled or unenrolled deed poll. The latter is available to anyone over the age of 16 and is essentially a legal document that you make yourself. Your solicitor can draw up a simple declaration for you and the wording would along the following lines:
“I, Jane Smith of 23, Avenue Road, have given up my name Jane Smith and have adopted for all purposes the name Jane Brown.
Signed as a deed on 1st March 2020 as Jane Smith and Jane Brown in the presence of names and addresses of 2 witnesses.”
This document is then signed by the applicant and two witnesses. A solicitor or Notary Public can assist with such documents for a small fee.
The alternative method is to apply for an enrolled deed poll, and this would certainly be our recommendation. As we mentioned before, the process for changing your name in this way is incredibly straightforward. Indeed, the forms are now available on line. A simple two page document and a cheque for £36 needs to be sent to The Royal Courts of Justice. There is no need to attend court and whilst the Court’s position is that such applications usually take around three weeks, the majority of applications have been known to take between four and eight weeks to be processed and returned.
Is there another way to change my surname back after a divorce?
Despite the processes laid out above as being fairly straightforward, there are still a number of people going through a divorce that would prefer not to have to wait on yet another decision from the courts. Naturally, many people will simply revert to their maiden name after the divorce, but those people need to be aware that there are an increasing number of institutions who will require legal documentation to support an application.
The good news is that if you are simply reverting to your maiden name after a divorce, then many institutions will accept a copy of your birth certificate, marriage certificate, decree absolute and a signed declaration that you are reverting your maiden name for all purposes. In the case of civil partnerships, both that certificate along with the final order will be required.
To be clear on this point, the marriage certificate which you are likely to have stored for sentimental purposes is not what you need here. Whilst many people will hold onto their marriage certificates in a safe place, such things can be lost, but that is not a problem. Your more formal marriage certificate is not the sort of document that you are likely to have had framed but the good news is that you can order copies of the certificate from the UK Government’s website. The address you need is www.gov.uk/order-copy-birth-death-marriage-certificate. There is a fee of £11 to pay and forms are generally received within four working days. If needed sooner, then there is an express service for £35 available as well.
Be aware however, that banks, building societies, the Passport Office and the DVLA are constantly imposing new and more stringent security measures, and so it makes sense to not allow something as important as your surname stand in the way of an otherwise straightforward process. An enrolled Deed Poll is your guarantee that you will be able to comfortably change your name back to your maiden name after a divorce, and that you’ll be able to apply for anything from a bank account to a passport without constantly having to dig out an array of certificates that are resting comfortably in the back of a filing cabinet somewhere in your, or your ex spouse’s home. That £36 fee is a small price to pay for both the convenience and the peace of mind.
Can I change my surname back to my maiden name before my divorce is finalised?
The simple answer here is yes. You can enrol for a Deed of Change of Name at any time – your divorce is not a consideration for the Deed Poll Office. However, it is vitally important that you advise all parties – especially your divorce lawyer – that you are doing this. Failure to do so could result in a decree nisi and decree absolute being granted to someone who, from a legal perspective, no longer exists due to a change of name that’s been recognised by the courts, and that could prove to be a very costly mistake!
Do I have to revert to my maiden name after my divorce?
There can be any number of reasons why you would not want to revert to your maiden name after a divorce, and the simple answer is that you don’t have to. However, in this instance, it will be necessary to apply for a Deed Change of Name, as the presentation of a marriage certificate and decree absolute will not prove sufficient here.
As we mentioned above, it’s not necessary to wait until a divorce is finalised to apply for a Deed Change of Name, but it is vitally important that all parties involved in your divorce proceedings are notified of your new name, once it has been granted. Indeed, many applicants have the foresight to notify their divorce lawyer at the point at which they’ve applied to change their name.
Naturally, your divorce lawyer is on hand to take you through all of these issues and advise you on the best course of action to change your surname back to your maiden name after a divorce, or to change your name to something entirely different after a divorce as well.